Comcast Is "Super Hopeful and Optimistic" About Tokyo Olympics, CEO Says

Tokyo Olympics
BEHROUZ MEHRI_AFP via Getty Images

Tokyo Olympics

"I believe there will be an Olympics," says Brian Roberts. "We are super hopeful and optimistic."

Cable giant Comcast's earnings conference call on Thursday covered various topics of interest to industry insiders and Wall Street analysts, but also at least one that casual sports fans will be keen on: the fate of the planned Tokyo Olympics.

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell were among the executives speaking on Thursday's call, and they did get a question on the Summer Games, set to begin July 23 after being delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Sitting here today, I believe there will be an Olympics. I hope there will be an Olympics," Roberts said. He argued that the event could be done "in a variety of ways" as sports events worldwide have shown, including with limited or no audiences. "We are super hopeful and optimistic" and believe organizers will find a way.

Roberts also said the Olympics would be "an amazing moment for the world to come back together post what we have all globally been through," but said if they don't take place, the company will have the Winter Games in 2022. Shell added that advertisers were also looking forward to the big event, adding the company was "pretty confident that the Olympics are going to happen," and "advertisers are also optimistic the Olympics are coming.”

The Olympics have again been in the headlines amid rising COVID-19 cases in Japan and around the world, as well as reports that the Japanese public is uncomfortable with where things stand despite organizers' commitment to pulling off the event.

A cancellation would affect billions of advertising and planning dollars. And it would have strategic implications for NBCUniversal, which was planning to use the Olympics to turbocharge its Peacock streaming service.

An NBC Olympics representative recently told THR: "Our preparations continue toward presenting the Tokyo Olympics to the American audience this summer."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) "is fully concentrated and committed to the successful and safe delivery" of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this year, IOC president Thomas Bach said Thursday. But he highlighted that there was "no blueprint" for organizing the Games during a pandemic, which has "multiplied" the complexity of staging its events. And he admitted that there may be no crowds at the Olympics, answering a question about that topic by saying: "This I cannot tell you. We will do whatever is needed to organize a safe Games."

In March, NBCUniversal said it had booked more than $1.25 billion in national advertising commitments. NBC is said to have been able to rework many of its Olympics ad deals, but other networks showing live sports aggressively moved to poach marketers that had planned to debut campaigns during the Games last year.

"We anticipate these kinds of things … so that we’re protected there, and we also have insurance for any expenses we make," Roberts told an investor conference in March, saying it was "full steam ahead" for the event before its delay. He added that there "should be no losses," but also acknowledging that "there wouldn’t be a profit" either.

Peacock also recently struck a deal to absorb sports entertainment streamer WWE Network in the U.S. under a five-year agreement reportedly worth $1 billion.